An Akhara Bhandara

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Today I was invited to join 250 sadhus at their akhara in Varanasi for lunch (known as a ‘bhandara’). It was an incredible experience to be in this beautiful holy setting, surrounded by a sea of orange. The food was an extremely generous affair with various spicy vegetable dishes, an assortment of roti plus rice,  and a delicious milky pudding enhanced by cardamon and slithers of nuts.  A constant stream of extra helpings was dished out to us all, from steal buckets carried by more sadhus, who would get their chance to eat in the second sitting.

The food was served on plates made from dried leaves, while the water was poured into little earthenware pots. The whole affair was extremely enjoyable, but it all happened incredibly fast! Within 20 minutes everyone had finished eating and a huge horn instrument was blown, announcing that they should go back to whatever they were doing. The sadhus sprang to their feet and cleared the space so that  the clean up operation could  begin. Before you knew it the floor was spotless and you would never have known that a banquet had taken place minutes before!

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